President's Letters

As published in The Fringed Gentian™.

fall 2023

Volume 71, No. 3

Dear Friends,

Fall is upon us with rain and record-breaking heat. Although many blooms have disappeared, I look forward to seeing the Witch Hazel flower, the last to bloom in the Garden

On August 30-31 volunteers of the Friends staffed a display about the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden and Bird Sanctuary at the Minnesota State Fair horticulture building.

Below: The 2023 State Fair Exhibit. Photos on the wall display by Bob Ambler, flower display and exhibit photo by Jennifer Olson.

state fair exhibit

Photographs by Bob Ambler highlighted the spring ephemerals, summer’s colorful blooms and fall’s foliage changes, witch hazel and asters. Potted plants and a representative bird photo captured the three ecosystems of the Upland Meadow: Butterfly Milkweed, Bigleaf Aster, Stiff Sunflower, and Indigo Bunting;  the Wetland: Tamarack tree, Great Blue Lobelia, and the Common Yellowthroat; and the Woodland: Northern Maidenhair, Zigzag Goldenrod, and the Scarlet Tanager.  Vases, possibly the same ones that Eloise used in her State Fair Exhibits showed off what was blooming that week: goldenrods, turtleheads, Cardinal Flower, Cup and Compass Plants, Plain Gentian, Buttonbush seed pods, Bugbane, New England Aster, and Obedient Plant. 

David Harris and ward bauman
Friends Members and exhibit volunteers, Dave Harris and Ward Bauman at the State Fair Exhibit. Photo by Melissa Hansen

Displayed acorns represented the five species of oaks, all indigenous to the Garden: Northern Red Oak, Eastern White Oak, Northern Pin Oak, Burr Oak, and Swamp White Oak.  The public was fascinated by the tray of buckeyes, offering a variety of identification guesses. 

Eloise Butler had exhibits at the State Fair starting in 1910 through at least 1918. From the September 5, 1911, Minneapolis Morning Tribune: An interesting exhibit is that of the wild ”Botanic” garden conducted by Miss Eloise Butler and Miss Mary Meeker (Eloise’s student, Central HS Class of 1893). Not a tame species of plant is to be found in the exhibit as everything was plucked from its natural wild bed.  More than 200 photographs taken by Miss Meeker are being shown and there are more than 100 varieties of wild plants. There are 60 species of trees, 100 of shrubs and about 500 herbs. In November 1911, Eloise Butler wrote to Theodore Wirth:  A second exhibit of the Garden was made at the State Fair. The flowers and photographs were labeled with both the common and the scientific name. The exhibits of wild flowers correctly named took the first premium. On account of its merit, I have been encouraged to believe hereafter the exhibit will be a permanent feature of the Fair. We did her honor. 

A trifold show cased this history including 11 of Mary Meeker’s photographs, images courtesy of the MPRB Archives. The majority of Miss Meeker’s photographs are black and white, but some she hand -painted the glass negatives before printing them.  About half of fairgoers engaged had not heard of the Garden. Less than half of those who were familiar with the Garden had actually visited. Within days, a couple visited the Garden because of the Eloise Butler Exhibit at MN’s Great Get Together. Hopefully more will discover this wild botanic garden. 

See you next year in the Garden❖ 


Below: Photo of White Turtlehead, Chelone glabra, from Eloise Butler’s 1911 State Fair exhibit. Photograph by Mary Meeker, images courtesy of the MPRB Archives.

white turtlehead

Summer 2023

Volume 71, No. 2

Dear Friends,

The spring ephemerals have disappeared and only the yellow, the last of the trillium is blooming. With the warm days the Golden Alexanders and the False Blue Indigo are blossoming in the Upland Meadow.

transportation graphic

This year, the Yellow Lady Slipper bloomed five moccasins, when last year only one and I thought it would be the last. The leaves of the Showy Lady’s Slippers are visible. Each visit to the Garden has different bird songs and blossoms, always a surprise.

We now have volunteers at the Front Gate Kiosk and in the Shelter. I enjoy greeting the variety of visitors at the Kiosk. One visitor has come weekly for 30 years and for others it’s their first time. Some are alone and many are families, sometimes three generations.  It’s fun to engage the children with the touch and see objects and to challenge them to find the flower that looks like pants or a slipper or a shooting star.

The National Wildlife Foundation (NWF) notes that the average American child spends as few as 30 minutes in unstructured outdoor play each day and more than seven hours each day in front of an electronic screen.  The NWF report identifies the benefits of getting kids in nature: outdoor play increases fitness, time outside raises Vitamin D levels, exposure to natural settings may be effective in reducing ADHD symptoms (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) and children’s stress levels fall within minutes of being in green spaces.

Although, the Garden is a bit structured, as one needs to stay on the paths. It’s a great time for observation, looking for different patterns of opposite or alternating leaves, round or lobed leaves, and various shapes, sizes, and color of flowers. The Mustard family flowers have four petals and six stamens (four tall and two short) while the Rose family has five petals and numerous stamens, often with oval, serrated leaves. The Aster family has composite flowerheads. One is made up of tiny flowers in a center disc surrounded by big petals, each a flower called ray flowers. Shanleya’s Quest, A Botany Adventure for Kids Ages 9-99 by Thomas J. Elpel can help with identifying the 8 major flower families.

Yellow lady's-slippers

The American Academy of Pediatrics states getting outdoors provides more than fun for children and teenagers; it is also good for their physical and mental health and development. Research shows that children who spend time in natural settings have less anger and aggression. Stress and depression are lower, and children can show increased focus. Getting outside, being in nature and moving is good for everyone!


Not all children have access to visit the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden.  Since the inception of Student Bus Transportation Grant Program in 2009 5,446 students have been able to tour the Garden with class transportation subsidized. The Friends have provided over $19,500 in funding for this program. Finally in 2023, the pandemic has fizzled and the school field trips to the Garden are in demand. However, with bus driver shortages and higher gas prices, bus transportation costs have risen.  We have a campaign to Bring Kids to the Garden. Please consider a donation to this worthy cause by using the QR code.

Thank you.  Enjoy your summer and Bring Kids to the Garden.❖ 



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Spring 2023

Volume 71, No. 1

Great Horned Owl
The Great Horned Owl posing for a photo during the bird count. Photo Jennifer Olson.

Dear Friends,

We celebrated our volunteers, October 30 at Lake of the Isles Lutheran Church with 60 people in attendance. We honored our retiring Board Members: Sally and Steve Pundt, Lauren Husting and Kathy Connelly. We enjoyed good food and conversations plus a fun raffle.

Although the Garden is closed during the winter, birding is year-round.  On Sunday, December 18, 2022, an Audubon Winter Bird Count, nationally referred to as the Audubon Christmas Bird Count, happened at Wirth Park, part of the Minneapolis Western Circle.  My group of 4 headed north of Highway 55 along Bassett Creek. We saw 78 birds of 17 species. My highlights were a kingfisher near Plymouth Bridge and a perched Great Horned Owl, 5 feet off the ground, 15 feet from us. Not too far from the owl, we spotted the owl’s left-wing imprint, made when it flew into the snow for a kill.  We returned to the Pavilion and enjoyed a potluck lunch. It was truly a community event!

The first Audubon Christmas Bird Count held in Wirth Park was in 1952.  Mr. J.S. Futcher, one of our Friends’ members participated and was responsible for filing the report to Audubon National: 30 participants, 495 birds and 22 species including a golden-crowned kinglet and a titmouse. Mr. Futcher’s comments on our 2022 Winter Bird Count were:
“we would of never seen wild turkey, a house finch or a Canada goose; and no bald eagles.”


Eloise noticed the birds too and wrote on April 12, 1916:
“saw numbers of flickers, yellow bellied sapsuckers, ruby-crowned kinglets, phoebe, red-winged blackbirds, song sparrows, myrtle warblers, chickadees, brown creepers. Caught a glimpse of the imported pheasant and the kingfishers.”

Below: The mark of an owl wing in the snow - possible prey capture. Photo Jennifer Olson.

 Owl wing mark in the snow

In the October 1969 Fringed Gentian™ it was written that “the title of the Garden had changed to the Eloise Butler Wild Flower and Bird Sanctuary. It was met with great enthusiasm.” In 1986, MPRB changed the name to Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden and Bird Sanctuary.


Late fall and winter are also busy times for the perimeter around the Garden. Together Garden Curator, Susan Wilkins and FIPAG co-chair, Jim Proctor have been leaders to reduce the buckthorn and garlic mustard outside the perimeter of the Garden. Legacy stewards and FIPAG volunteers have worked hard to eliminate these plants resulting in more native plants thriving. In November FIPAG volunteers planted cuttings from elderberry bushes growing elsewhere in Wirth Park. Jim is discovering “winter weeding” where one can easily pull small buckthorn after the leaves have dropped.  At the end of January, he did “snow sowing,” by sprinkling wildflower seed mixes on the snow. The sun will melt the top of the snow, the seeds will migrate towards the ground, and hopefully in spring will germinate.  The Garden is awesome, but the perimeter is amazing too.  Check out the Maple Bowl.


Below: Members of the FIPAG crew clearing Buckthorn in October 2022. Photo Bob Ambler.

 FIPAG crew working with buckthorn

The Garden opens in April and will begin its 117th season with migrating warblers and early ephemeral blooms welcoming us. Birding is a Garden tradition too; the Early Birders will return on Saturdays in April.  All are welcome.  
See you in the Garden


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